Favorite Art Materials

A few of my favorite things.

Updated February 2021

I update this page regularly to reflect my current favorite materials, but products I used previously are stored as an Archive for a personal record. If you saw something here before that is no longer here, check the Archive page.

I keep this page relevant by listing only my current favorites, but reviews for all products can still be found by using the "Product Review" label, by using the tabs across the top of the blog, or by using the search box at upper right to search for the specific product name. Highlighted below are reviews of products I currently use most often:

Tina's Top Colored Pencils
A Word (or Two) on Brushes
Caran d’Ache Museum Aquarelle water-soluble pencils
Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen Fountain Pen
Stillman & Birn Softcovers: New and Improved
Stillman & Birn Zeta Sketchbook
Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbook
Tran Portfolio Pencil Case
My Favorite Tools for Life Drawing
Mobius + Rupert Sharpener

I talk about some of my favorite sketching materials in a July 2020 interview on the Erasable Podcast.

My Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag has sketched with me on
four continents.

Here are other related posts that you might find interesting:

Tina's 2016 Top 10
Tina's 2015 Top 10
Tina's 2014 Top 10
Tina's 2013 Top 10 
Tina's 2012 Top 10 
Tina's Bottom 10 (including reasons for detesting these products)
The Sketch Bag: An Update
Travel Sketching Tips
The Hand Bookbinding Groove (my bookbinding process)
Lightfastness is a Philosophical Issue (and a Longevity Test of Zig Markers)
Epic Pen Search and Discovery (my multi-part series on my search for the Grail of variable-line-width fountain pen nibs)
Colored Pencils Are Taking Over (why I prefer them to markers)
What I've Learned from Field Notes
How Many Colored Pencils Do You Really Need?
Sketch Kit Diet: Lighter, Slimmer, More Essential
Amsterdam Sketch Kit: Same as Every Day
If I Had to Choose Only One Colored Pencil

(Note: For your convenience, I’ve included links to online resources for my favorite art supplies, but please shop around for the best value. I am not affiliated with any of these retailers and will not receive a kickback, even though I should, since I give them so much of my money.)

Everyday-Carry Bag

Since 2012, I've been using a "small" size Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag, carried with me at all times the way I used to carry my purse. For more on bags and sketch kits carrying accessories, see this page

My dry-season Rickshaw Zero Messenger Bag (size small)

This waterproof version of the Rickshaw Zero Messenger Bag is my wet-season bag. It's the same size and style as the original -- just a different fabric.

Tools and Materials 

The Rickshaw bag contains the following tools and materials:

My spring/summer palette includes mostly Caran d'Ache Museum Aquarelles, a few Faber-Castell Albrecht Durers and one Caran d'Ache Neocolor II water-soluble crayon (photo updated 7/19)

Photo updated 7/19

1. Tortillon
4. 8B graphite pencil
5. Blackwing graphite pencil with soft core (about 4B)
7. Two waterbrushes – a general-use Kuretake and a special-purpose Derwent
8. Kneadable eraser (kept in a slender, hinged Daniel Smith watercolor crayon box)
9. Two black brush pens – one waterproof, one water-soluble. I use many different brands with no specific favorites as long as one is waterproof and one is water-soluble. Shown here are a waterproof Tombow Fudenosuke and a water-soluble Kuretake Fudegokochi.
10. Pentel Pocket Brush Pen with dark gray waterproof ink
11. Water spritzer that I find essential for a couple of techniques with watercolor pencils.


In early 2019, I made the first change in my everyday-carry sketchbook since 2013 -- a big deal for me! Instead of binding sketchbooks by hand, I started using a softcover Stillman & Birn Zeta sketchbook in the 5½-by-8 ½-inch size.

I also always carry a pocket-size Field Notes notebook, most often a red Sweet Tooth edition, but occasionally others for variety, like the slightly larger Signature edition. This small book is handy for quick, perhaps discreetly made sketches of people on public transportation or other situations when I don’t necessarily need or want my full-size sketchbook.

At my studio desk, I also use a variety of other Stillman & Birn sketchbooks for still lives and product testing.

Bird's eye view of my Rickshaw Bagworks Zero messenger bag and its contents. (Photo updated 7/19)

Minimal Sketch Kit

During the warmer, dry-weather months, it’s easy to get the recommended five-days-per-week of aerobic exercise. When the long wet and cold season begins, however, I have a hard time getting out the door for a walk, and I start slacking. To motivate myself to continue walking during inhospitable weather, I worked out a walk/sketch fitness program that rewards me with a sketch opportunity along the way. As part of the program, I put together a slimmed-down sketch kit (which became the key component in my winter 2020 minimal sketch kit challenge).
My walk/sketch fitness program kit

Here’s what’s in my walk/sketch fitness program kit:
·       1 Viarco ArtGraf water-soluble graphite pencil
·       1 compact-size Kuretake waterbrush
·       1 Uni Pin brush pen
·       1 Bic ballpoint pen

Rickshaw mini-size messenger bag and pen case.
The kit components fit nicely in a Rickshaw pen case. My walking bag is a waterproof mini-size Rickshaw Zero Messenger Bag (which also has room for my wallet, glasses, phone and keys). For more details, please see the full post

Everyday Sketch Kit, Pandemic Edition

Who knew that a global pandemic would call for a revised sketch kit? This post describes how I use it and details of what's inside. 

My minimal kit slightly fattened up, these contents still fit nicely in the same case.

Everyday-carry sketch bag, Pandemic Edition

For more information about how I organize my bag and sketch materials, please see this page.

In the Studio

Struggling to draw with my non-dominant hand!
But the Art Stand Desktop Easel helps immensely.

During these pandemic times, I've spent more time than usual sketching in my studio. Although I use most of the same favorite materials at home as I do on location, I have a few indispensable tools that I use only in my studio:

My favorite Carl Angel-5 hand-crank sharpener

Prismacolor Art Stix

One art material has become a favorite at home -- Prismacolor Art Stix. I could probably pack several in my "normal" daily-carry, but so far, I haven't taken them out. Quite chunky, they require a larger sketchbook, which makes them less conducive to sketching while standing. They would be great at a cafe table, though. (Sigh . . . someday I surely hope to get back to coffee shop sketching.) 

Gratuitous eye candy.


  1. I love your gear> Everything!
    Probably I will ask you some suggestions on some of your equipment later, especially the marker and the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks.
    And what an ordered and clean desktop... I will never had something like you! :)



  2. Love your kit! Have you ever tried the Cretacolor water-soluble coloured pencils, "Aquamonolith" series? (I don't know if they're available in U.S.). They're fantastic. Good thing is they are made all-graphite, there's no wood around the graphite. Bad thing is, if they fall they will break in two pieces.

  3. I always love reading about your gear and bags. So interesting.

  4. Dear Friend Tina,
    A fab blog with many things I like so much. I will watching all works.
    Best regards,

  5. Hi Tina...live your blog. So much great information. Can you please advise the size of your Rickshaw bag? I've looked over your blog but can't see any sizing...unless my eyesight is worse than I thought! 🤓 Thanks again for a great blog.

    1. Hi Jeannette! I have the "small" Rickshaw Zero bag. You can find all the dimensions and other info here: http://www.rickshawbags.com/small-zero-messenger-bag
      If you explore the site, you'll find info on the other sizes, too. Have fun, and happy sketching!

    2. Thank you Tina....just need to decide between the small and the medium 🤔😀

  6. Oops...darn eyes are bad. "Love" not live 😜

  7. Hi Tina,
    Very informative blog! Thanks, came to know so many new art supplies which I can explore. It's a pleasure to read.

  8. Hello Tina,

    I’ve been enjoying your blog. It has been very helpful. I too have started binding my own sketchbooks using the Coptic stitch. However, so far I bind them first and then use them. I will be taking a trip to Italy this May and will be traveling VERY light,and small. So, I’m searching for anyway I can minimize my kit, and lighten my load. The idea of carrying signatures which I can bind later is very intriguing. Tell me, do you remove your temporary folder prior to binding? Or are the colorful I assume heavier weight paper covers retained in the bound sketchbook? I use 140# watercolor paper. When I bound my sketchbooks I used only two sheets per signature. I understand you are using 4 sheets stitched together in your signature? What stitch do you use for the signatures? I appreciate your advice on this topic. Thank you,

    1. Hi Stephanie! I bind 4 sheets plus the heavier colored paper cover into a signature using a simple temporary stitch (saddle stitch?), and I punch the holes so that they will be the same as what I would want to use when I finally bind with Coptic. I fill the signature with sketches, and I wait until I have 5 more signatures filled. Then I cut away the temporary stitching, remove the colored paper cover (which is simply to protect the first and last pages of the signature), and bind the 6 signatures together with Coptic using the same holes that I had punched previously for the temporary stitching. It's a very lightweight and simple solution that has been working well for me for 5 years! :-)

    2. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. This is very helpful.

  9. March 7, 2021 Yes, Tina, I'm totally fascinated with your Blog, and it's been under a year since it 'discovered' me through a search result list about Pens and Inks. It is clear you are the 'Sherlock Holmes & company of the Sketching and Materials world! or should be acknowledged as such! You have taught me about things I didn't even realize I needed or wanted to know and it's been fun! Thanks for your great blog!


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